Support for people coming out of prison

support ex prisonersEstablished last year, the Prison Support Network is developing a network for former prisoners aimed at enhancing access to local service providers in health, housing, education and employment.

The Network is being championed by Care After Prison, The Pathways Project and PACE, three organisations who currently work with people who have recently left prison.

To raise their profile among people in prison the Network hosted an ‘Experience Week’ where ex-prisoners, service providers and others were brought into Wheatfield Prison, over three days, to tell prisoners what facilities are available in the community following release, in the Network’s four core areas of health, housing, education and employment. The annual ‘Experience Week’ is being piloted in Wheatfield Prison, but it is hoped that it will be expanded to other prisons once the proper infrastructure is in place.

What other similar support projects are available for people coming out of prison?

Another initiative which sees former prisoners supporting one another and those set to leave prison is User Voice (UK). User Voice was founded in 2009 by Martin Johnson, a former prisoner who embodies the transformative change that User Voice strives to achieve. User Voice has built “the structures that enable productive collaboration between service users and service providers”. Their success is due to their work being both led and delivered by former prisoners, who they believe are most equipped for the job. Could this be a model for the Prisoner Support Network? []

The Prisoner Support Network is looking towards the Cork Alliance Centre for guidance and a possible organisational structural model. The Cork Alliance Centre has established an infrastructure similar to which the Prisoner Support Network aims to implement. The Alliance uses a collaborative partnership approach in aiding prisoners after release in a variety of different areas such as access to education and housing. The Cork Alliance Centre [] aspires to enable former prisoners “to secure primary human goals in socially acceptable and personally meaningful ways, while taking responsibility for personal actions”. This sentiment is echoed in the Prisoner Support Network’s own aims and ambitions. The Cork Alliance Centre is grounded “in the belief that [they] work with people who have offended, rather than holding onto labels such as offender, ex-offender, prisoner or ex-prisoner”. []

Nonetheless, the Prison Support Network hopes that service providers will come together to aid people who have been in prison, with ex-prisoners being involved, like what is seen in User Voice.

The Prisoner Support Network is still very much in its developmental stage having recently established an advisory committee to enable the developing stages of the Network to be pushed through. This committee will explore and develop the aims and objectives of the network.

Posted in Criminality, Prisons and Justice News

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